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Yorkshire Welcomes Le Tour

Next year, the friendly folks of the United Kingdom's Yorkshire County will have a Tour (capital 'T') to call their own when the three-day Tour of Yorkshire gets underway with its inaugural edition May 1-3. In the meantime, they've done an astounding job of preparing for the big tour that belongs to France.

All along the 190.5km stage 1 route from Leeds to Harrogate, yellow, green and polka dots are ubiquitous. Window art, lawn decorations, painted bikes, and even the occasional painted sheep (live ones) dot this hilly landscape, which we got a firsthand taste of earlier this week during a test ride with Trek.

The hallmark of the route is the Yorkshire Dales National Park with its endless series or valleys and accompanying hilltops. Officially the stage is categorized as flat, but that's in name only. Our test ride included the final two-thirds of the route, and doled out 4,800 feet of tough climbing, much of it during the nasty gut punch of a climb known locally as Buttertubs. It's 3.8 miles, gains 1,000 feet, and averages 5 percent with several ramps that exceed 20 percent. The Tour roadbook rates it category 3.

Next up is the Cote de Grinton Moor, another cat. 3. It's only 2 miles long, but averages 7 percent and gains 660 feet. The good news for the race's non climbers is that there's 61km from this final summit to the finish in Harrogate. The bad news is that even the run to the line isn't exactly flat. Here's a look at some of the sights and scenes from the area as we begin the final countdown to the kickoff of the 2014 Tour de France.